Website usability–what it means and why you care

Backwards Watering CanWhen web developers talk about usability, it may sound techie, but it’s all about the human side of things: how do you make a website so easy to use, so intuitive, that visitors can do what they want quickly and efficiently every time? That’s what usability is all about.

While it may seem subjective, there are design standards and extensive (although sometimes conflicting) research to use as guidelines. Some companies, such as Amazon, conduct usability studies on a regular basis. During these studies, observers watch people perform online tasks, keeping a close eye on any missteps or roadblocks encountered along the way.

You may not have the budget for live usability trials, but it’s easy enough to invite a few friends and colleagues to preview a new site and offer feedback. Put together a scavenger hunt, where you ask them to track down specific information or perform certain actions (e.g. make a purchase, submit a contact request), and get their input on how quickly they were able to complete their tasks.

Whatever else you do, make absolutely sure your website design and navigation create an effortless experience—you never want to get in the way of customer who’s ready to buy.

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